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Houston

Report: Texas Mother Not First to Accuse KHOU Reporter of Unethical Behavior

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As we’ve reported, a mother has sued Houston CBS station KHOU, claiming she was falsely accused in a news story of locking her child in a hot car while she got a haircut:

KHOU reported on the incident July 15 based on a witness who said shoppers “took matters into their own hands,” smashing the car window with a hammer while their mother, Araceli Cisneros, was inside the mall. In reality, Cisneros had actually accidentally locked the children — and her car keys — in the car, and had asked for help in smashing the windows to get them.

The lawsuit accuses KHOU and reporter Rucks Russell with a “reckless disregard” for the truth and with failing to do the “most basic fact checking.”

According to a story posted to community news site Covering Katy, it’s not the first time Russell’s been involved in an ethical controversy:

In 1998 while working in Florida for (Orlando ABC affiliate) WFTV Russell was suspended while his employer investigated his relationship with a woman who was a key witness in a murder case.

According to the Orlando Sentinel there were questions about how Russell obtained his information while reporting on the case. “Defense attorneys wanted to ask Russell about information he may have obtained through a friendship with the suspect’s wife, Angel Huggins,” according to the article.

Russell was later cleared by his employer and allowed to return to work, but his stay at WFTV didn’t last much longer. The Orlando Sentinel reported Russell left the station to “pursue other interests” the following year.

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Woman Sues KHOU After Report Claims She Locked Her Kids in Hot Car

khou kids car reportA Texas mother is suing Houston CBS affiliate KHOU after a report that falsely accused her of leaving her children in a hot car while she went to get a hair cut, the Houston Chronicle reports.

KHOU reported on the incident July 15 based on a witness who said shoppers “took matters into their own hands,” smashing the car window with a hammer while their mother, Araceli Cisneros, was inside the mall. In reality, Cisneros had actually accidentally locked the children — and her car keys — in the car, and had asked for help in smashing the windows to get them.

After the story went viral, Cisneros filed a suit claiming more than $200,000 in damages, the Chronicle reports:

The suit says KHOU and reporter Rucks Russell published the story with a “reckless disregard for its truth or falsity” and without doing the “most basic fact checking.” According to the suit, nationally syndicated TV personality Nancy Grace even picked it up, calling Cisneros an unfit mother. Read more

Jerry Vazquez Named KTMD News Director

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Jerry Vazquez has joined KTMD, the Telemundo station in Houston, as news director, media blogger Mike McGuff reports. Vazquez had been executive producer at KTRK, the ABC affiliate in Houstin, for the past 13 years. Prior to KTRK, Vazquez worked at KMID Midland, Texas, where he was news director.

“I want to thank KTRK for the last 13 years of my career,” Vazquez told McGuff. “I will miss my friends who I worked along side, and not only worked with, but also learned from.”

According to McGuff, this is not Vazquez’s first time at a Telemundo station. Back in 1989 he helped launch Telemundo San Antonio’s “Noticiero 60″, where he served as its first assignments editor/assistant news director.

Vazquez’s new position is effective immediately.

‘Post-Newsweek’ Name Retired, Company Now ‘Graham Media Group’

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Post-Newsweek Stations announced today the company would now be known as Graham Media Group, effective immediately. The name change comes after the sale of The Washington Post to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The company owns five television stations, WJXT in Jacksonville, WDIV in Detroit, KPRC in Houston, KSAT in San Antonio, and WKMG in Orlando.

In a statement, Emily Barr, president and CEO of Graham Media Group, said the new name was a better fit for the company:

“Much like our parent company, Graham Holdings, this new name better reflects the diversity of our creative and innovative company,” said Emily Barr, president and CEO of Graham Media Group. “We provide our communities with the best local news, programming and critical information, delivered on-air, on-line and on-demand, via our television stations, websites and social media, as well as 90 news, weather and community-focused mobile apps. In addition, we have recently made a strategic investment in Storm Pins, a crowd-sourced, social weather and breaking news app that connects you to your community, and we continue to look for ways to expand our reach into local communities through innovative digital media and web-based communications.”

Miami station WPLG, previously a Post-Newsweek station, was sold this year to Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway

Dave Strickland Resigns from KTRK

KTRK LOGOKTRK news director Dave Strickland has resigned.

Houston media blogger Mike McGuff, who first reported the story, said Strickland told staffers Friday “the job was affecting his family, life and personal relationships.”

Strickland started at the station as an intern. He left in 1994 to work at WAVY in Hampton Roads, VA, as an executive producer before being named news director in 1996. He returned to KTRK in 2000 as news director.

Sportscaster Simone Eli Joins KPRC

simone eliSimone Eli started this week at KPRC, the NBC affiliate in Houston, Mike McGuff reports. She will be the station’s weekend sports anchor and reporter.

Eli comes from WALA, the Fox affiliate in Mobile, where she has been a sports director and anchor since May 2013.

“We’re really excited that we got her out of Mobile and we think she will be a great asset,” KPRC senior executive producer Rick McFarland told McGuff. “Not only does she have great sportscasting experience, but I think people are going to be interested in watching her.”

KPRC Names Rhonda Errer LaVelle News Director

kprc lavelleKPRC has named Rhonda Errer LaVelle as news director.

LaVelle had been acting news director at the Houston NBC affiliate since Deborah Collura was named GM of WCNC in Charlotte.

Before joining KPRC in March, LaVelle was an executive producer at WDIV in Detroit where she had worked for 16 years.

[Mike McGuff]

Courtney Zubowski Will Sign Off From KHOU

courtney zubowskiCourtney Zubowski is leaving Houston CBS affiliate KHOU, Houston media blogger Mike McGuff reports.

“We’ve loved having her in our newsroom and on our air—Courtney’s a game changer. Very sorry to lose her day to day, and she knows this. But Courtney also knows she has all our support and best wishes for whatever comes next,” KHOU executive news director Philip Bruce wrote in a note to staff.

Zubowski tells McGuff she will “pursue new and exciting opportunities” after she signs off later this month.

Katherine Whaley Leaving KHOU

katherine whaleyAs Darby Douglas returns to KHOU as morning traffic reporter, Katherine Whaley — who has been in that role since 2009 — is leaving the Houston CBS affiliate. The Houston Chronicle has details:

Whaley, a graduate of Memorial High School and Rice University who joined Channel 11 in 2009, said she was offered a reporting position with the station that she said she “ultimately determined was not the right fit for me.”

She said she will continue with Channel 11 through most of August and is “engaged in conversations for upcoming opportunities.”

Houston media blogger Mike McGuff, who first reported the story, also talks to Whaley about what’s next.

Former KHOU Reporter Brad Woodard Dies

Former KHOU reporter Brad Woodard was found dead in his Houston home last week.

According to KHOU, authorities found his body Wednesday morning. He hadn’t returned several phone calls from relatives prompting them to ask police to check on him. No foul play was suspected.

He worked at Minneapolis NBC affiliate KARE from 1990 until 2006, before leaving for Houston CBS affiliate KHOU. Both stations remembered Woodard for being an “old school” journalist and award-winning writer.

We’ll forever remember Brad as a kind man with a soft heart.  He had two great passions—storytelling and animals.  Frequently, Brad turned a light on those who abused or neglected innocent creatures and his work on animal abuse—and many other topics—won him multiple local, regional and national honors.   One standout series was his investigative look exposing cruelty to animals used in research to produce pharmaceuticals.   He won a highly-coveted Sigma Delta Chi Award for his feature on the death of the family farm.  And he received the National Epilepsy Foundation Distinguished Journalism Award for his work providing an unprecedented glimpse into the life of a teenage boy living with epilepsy. Read more

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